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The CustomerCentric Selling Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development
Tools, Techniques, and Exercises to Win More Business
By GARY WALKER
The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.Copyright © 2013 McGraw-Hill Education
All rights reserved.
Getting the Most out of This Field Guide
Why a Field Guide?
If you are like many sales or business professionals, this is not the first business book you have had your hands on. However, it may be the first business field guide you have encountered.
Personally, I have gained much from reading the ideas expressed by authors in many fine professional books. Often they give me new ideas to consider as I'm relaxing on an airplane or feeling contemplative. But generally speaking, it is a one-way affair, with the role of the reader simply being to read the words neatly arranged on the pages and having to figure out how to implement the ideas the book's author suggests.
Field guides are different. They aim to strike a partnership with the reader through a collaboration of sorts, with the field guide providing facts, tips, and a frame of reference for the reader, who calls upon them at a time of need.
For example, if you are walking in the woods, you may find a field guide to mushrooms or trees a handy resource. Before you bend over and pick what you hope is a tasty morel mushroom, you whip out your field guide and examine the pictures and the written description carefully until you feel comfortable with your skills of identification. You are then rewarded with the most delicious mushroom you have ever savored and become something of a hero to your intrepid peers, who remain firmly entrenched in their way of doing things—and off they go to the grocery store to buy their button mushrooms.
As your knowledge grows, your confidence grows, and you move from elementary skills to more advanced techniques for identification and problem solving. As a parallel to your business objectives of prospecting for customers, perhaps you will even use a field guide to prospect for rocks, Civil War relics, or precious metals. Over time, your practiced use of field guides results in you having improved your confidence, competency, and satisfaction.
The CustomerCentric Selling Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development is designed to help you navigate the same path in the field of prospecting for gold in the form of new business.
While there are words on these pages just as there are on the pages of any business book, as with all field guides the benefits accrue once you apply the tips, tools, methods, and exercises in real-world settings. This book is designed to go with you and to be practiced as much as read. There is space for you to scribble, annotate, and express your thoughts. In a way, you become a partner in finishing this book by customizing it for you.
Learning to Exercise
You probably are familiar with the expression "no pain, no gain." That saying permeates our culture for good reason; if you want results, you generally have to work for them. While it is not my intention to inflict pain on you, it is important for you to realize that you will need to apply yourself if you want to improve at anything. This is true for getting those ripped abs, becoming a virtuoso on the piano, or finishing that marathon. And it is even truer for becoming truly proficient at the science and art of prospecting and business development, differentiating yourself from the masses of salespeople.
Funny thing, though, about the profession of selling; there are far too many people who act as if you can walk right into success with no planning, no forethought, and no practice. More often than not, these folks give selling a bad name and achieve little success. This strikes me as odd given the lucrative incomes that many sales professionals can and do earn, either equaling or greatly surpassing that earned by other professionals such as doctors and lawyers, who, by contrast, study and practice rigorously to earn their keep.
Sure, every now and then someone comes along and succeeds wildly in a sales career without any formal training. Then again, every few hundred years musical prodigies like Mozart come around. The rest of us would be well advised to prepare for success rather than hoping or wishing for success, and this preparation means practicing new skills. This is something I believe in fully rather than talking about hypocritically.
In my business, I practice and institutionalize every one of the methods and tactics described in this book. Sometimes it is not glamorous or sexy ... more akin to the way the tortoise runs the race than the hare. But it works consistently and has always proved to be effective.
Using This Field Guide
My recommendation is for you to read through this field guide in the order it is written. There are several exercises for you to complete along the way, and completing these exercises accomplishes three things.
First, it requires you to demonstrate that you have grasped what you have read. If you haven't, then the subsequent materials become more difficult and won't be as clear to you. Writing your own answers allows you to think about what you have read and how you can apply it to the uniqueness of your selling situation. I have no way of knowing if your aim is to sell commodity products, high-value intangible services, big-ticket luxury items, and so on. The exercises allow you to take the tips, tools, and tactics described and adapt them to your particular products, services, and markets.
Second, it allows you to make an investment in the authorship of this book. In addition to my words on the page, the book becomes alive with your words on the page. Go beyond simply answering the questions to scribbling notes in the margins when you read something that excites, concerns, or inspires you.
Finally, by participating in the book, you will begin a process of planning for your own success. The elements of the process—reading, thinking, and responding—will all align to the goal that you are aiming for: improving your prospecting and business development effectiveness. You will begin thinking more about who your prospective customers are, what they want, and how you can ultimately get what you want by helping them to get what they want. Without even realizing it, your thoughts on prospecting and business development will become more serious, more planned, and more deliberate. You will be on your way to achieving your professional goals.
After you have completed your initial reading of the book, you should have an understanding of its contents. But the pages are still crisp, or if you are reading a digital copy, the screen still has few smudges. Over time, your goal is to smudge that screen, to weather those pages, as a result of referencing time after time the strategies and tactics you want to practice, hone, and improve upon. Each time you will add notes where you have been successful, where you have stumbled, and how you have adapted. It is, after all, a field guide, and not a leather-bound book that must never be removed from "Ron Burgundy's" bookshelf.
If you let it, this field guide will help you to become a more successful sales professional by unleashing the greatness that is already within you. But there is a catch, and it is an obvious one. Just as world-class golfers make golfing look easy, you probably falter considerably by comparison when you swing the sticks. That's because for most of us, golf is just playtime. Winning new business is where our income is earned ... for many of us, it funds our livelihood.
If you want to earn enough to swing the sticks and to have the life you financially crave, the catch is that you need to take selling seriously. That means taking prospecting and business development seriously.
Wearing out the pages of The CustomerCentric Selling Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development is the place to start.
CustomerCentric Selling Primer
Whether you are an existing CustomerCentric Selling client or a salesperson not yet familiar with the CustomerCentric Selling approach, it is appropriate to take a moment to cover the core concepts of the CustomerCentric Selling methodology.
The main focus of The CustomerCentric Selling Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development is to help individuals and organizations involved in sales to become better, more effective prospectors and developers of new business. Specifically, the aim is to help people move from traditional prospecting approaches and techniques to "customer-centric" behavior. It is my sincere belief that the CustomerCentric Selling methodology can help you become more customer-centric and therefore more successful.
The worldwide team at CustomerCentric Selling is engaged in the business of sales process improvement, Sales Ready Messaging, and sales training. The practical concepts within this book are the result of years of experience, research, and field testing—first as sales professionals ourselves, later as executives with increasing levels of sales management responsibility, and finally as leaders in a firm that has taught tens of thousands of customers to achieve better sales results.
As teachers, we work with all levels within client organizations. We help chief executive officers (CEOs) to learn how to take responsibility for their customers' experience and to shape them.
We teach sales executives how to own and manage their revenue engines.
We show marketing executives how to manage their content and create Sales Ready Messaging.
We teach first-line sales managers how to assess and develop the talent of their salespeople, manage a sales process, and build a quality pipeline.
Last—but certainly not least—we teach salespeople customer-centric behavior. In doing so, we focus on how to influence the words that sellers use when developing buyer needs for their offerings.
What Is Customer-Centric Behavior?
Customer-centric behavior has eight basic tenets. These are summarized in Table 2.1 and are explained in order in this chapter. As you read these descriptions, I invite you to imagine a spectrum of selling behavior ranging from traditional on one end to customer-centric on the other. Try to find yourself on that spectrum. Are you where you want to be? Are you as successful as you can be? If not, what needs to change?
Tenet 1. Having Situational Conversations Versus Making Presentations
Traditional salespeople rely on making presentations or doing product demonstrations, often using applications such as PowerPoint or using a member of the professional services or presales staff to perform the demonstration. Why? Because they believe that this approach gives them the opportunity to add excitement in the form of highly polished graphics, animation, and so on. It affords them the opportunity to turn down the lights and increase the dramatic effect of their presentations.
In successful selling we find that conversations are far more powerful than presentations. Your ability to converse effectively (have a meaningful two-way dialogue) is the key to your prospecting and selling success. And yes, it is possible to converse with audiences using PowerPoint—as opposed to presenting to them—but it is far more difficult. Have you ever had a conversation with a friend or a colleague that was based on a pre-scripted slide show? Of course you haven't, and so it shouldn't be a surprise that when senior executives see salespeople enter their offices with a laptop under their arm, many roll their eyes and sneak a peek at their watches.
When conducting sales calls, how often do salespeople dominate by doing the majority of the talking? Salespeople have their own agenda of what they would like to accomplish.
Good conversations require both parties to actively participate and exchange ideas. Sellers that do a great deal of telling and sharing opinions to have buyers draw the desired conclusions can be viewed as trying to manipulate the buyers.
Consider this: In order to be effective, a salesperson must be able to relate his or her offering to the buyer in a way that will allow the buyer to visualize using it to achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need. This, in turn, requires a conversation. For a variety of reasons, though, only a small percentage of salespeople are able to converse effectively with buyers, especially executives and decision makers.
The CustomerCentric Selling Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development aims to help you engage in relevant, situation-specific conversations with senior executives that have the ability to purchase your offering. It is phase one of the selling marathon.
By contrast, CustomerCentric Selling is a broad methodology designed to help you navigate the entire sales process with decision makers, without depending on canned slide presentations. In short, it can help you to become more effective and more successful.
Tenet #2. Asking Relevant Questions Versus Offering Opinions
Traditional salespeople offer their opinions to prospects, whereas customer-centric salespeople ask relevant questions. It is far more comfortable for buyers if sellers focus on asking versus telling. This allows the buyers to steer the direction of the sales call based on their own responses. It also allows the buyers to draw their own conclusions.
Another potential issue occurs when sellers attempt to develop a vision for a solution to their buyer's goal or problem before their prospective buyer does. When a traditional seller sees the solution, he or she tends to project that vision onto the buyer, saying things like, "In order to deal with that problem, you will need our seamlessly integrated software solution ..."
When that occurs, what is happening on the other side of the table? Very often the prospective buyer is thinking something along the lines of "Oh, yeah? Do we now? Says who?"
People don't like loved ones telling them what they need, much less a salesperson with a motive and a mission! Most people, when in the role of buyer, would resent it when sellers try to control or pressure them.
People love to buy but hate feeling like they are being sold to. Buying means they are in control. Being sold to means they are being controlled, and few people like to be controlled.
At CustomerCentric Selling, we have found that top-performing salespeople use their expertise to frame interesting and helpful questions rather than deliver opinions. Asking intelligent and relevant questions shows respect for the buyers and engages them.
When buyers encounter a series of intelligent questions—questions that are on point and that can be answered, and the answers to which build toward a useful solution—they do not feel that they are being sold.
Asking Questions: Are You Up to the Test?
Write three to five questions you normally ask during a sales call.
Now, take a look at the five questions you have just written. Do traditional salespeople typically ask similar questions? What's your budget? What's your timeline? Do you have the ability to buy?
When asking questions similar to those, whose needs are you attempting to process, yours or the prospect's? Whose needs is the prospect interested in processing, yours or his or her own? Being customer-centric means focusing on the needs of the prospect.
Tenet #3. Solution Focused Versus Relationship Focused
Traditional sellers are relationship focused, and customer-centric sellers are solution focused.
If the seller does not understand how the buyer will use the seller's offering to achieve a goal, solve a problem, or satisfy a need, he or she really has no choice but to fall back on relationships. Why does it happen? In many cases the answer lies in the training (or lack of) that the salesperson receives. Many organizations engage their product marketing department to teach salespeople about their products. Not surprisingly, the result is a sales force that can tell you all about the esoteric features of the products but can't tell you how the products are used or how the buyers can benefit from them. And the rare product marketers who do understand the uses of the products tend to have their understanding at the day-to-day user level, not at the decision-maker level.
Excerpted from The CustomerCentric Selling Field Guide to Prospecting and Business Development by GARY WALKER. Copyright © 2013 by McGraw-Hill Education. Excerpted by permission of The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc..
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